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Is it time for the IET to conduct a new Salary Survey - for the benefit of all UK and Ireland Members...

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Is it time for the IET to conduct a new Salary Survey - for the benefit of all UK and Ireland Members and Employers?

Posted by Malcolm Davies on Aug 3, 2019 6:50 pm

Is it about time that the IET carried out another UK and Ireland Engineering Salary Survey before Brexit Chaos Ensues ? On 6 Feb 1998 the IEE received responses from some 10,575 UK and Eire based Fellows, Members, Associate Members and Associates at a time when the total UK wide IEE Membership was 69,775. The recent Salary Survey 2019 - published in The Engineer Magazine in collaboration with CBS Butler received responses from just 1568 engineers covering 12 engineering sectors, ranging from Academia, through Rail and Infrastructure, Defence and Security, Automotive, Aerospace, Telecomms/Electronics, Food and Drink, Chemicals, Oil and Gas and Energy/renewables/nuclear, 3 levels of responsibility (Junior, Senior/Manager and Director) and 6 geographical regions. This works out to be 12 x 3 x 6 groups spread over 1568 data points i.e. an average of just 7 data points per cell. Needless to say this Survey could not show either salary medians, upper and lower quartiles nor any analysis on the basis of Class of Membership e.g. Chartered, Incorporated, Technician. By comparison the IEE Salary Survey 1998 covered six responsibility levels and was able to show meaningful statistical data by age group in 5 year age bands from graduation to retirement. The IET alone now has 168,000 members in 150 countries world wide, surely a golden opportunity for a New Salary Survey? The President Elect, Dr Peter Bonfield asked us, at his recent address, entitled 'The Future of Engineering' given on 3rd July 2019, at The University of Hertford, for suggestions to facilitate the ongoing advancement of the IET Profession both individually, collectively, educationally, and reputationally in the public eye in order to encourage many more bright youngsters and school leavers to take Professional Engineering in the UK as their career of first choice. Maybe this survey would provide an up to date view of where we are and where we need to make improvements for the sake of all our futures.

Re: Is it time for the IET to conduct a new Salary Survey - for the benefit of all UK and Ireland Members and Employers?

Posted by Andy Millar on Aug 3, 2019 11:08 pm

To play Devil's advocate (I actually always rather enjoy salary surveys), who would it benefit? UK engineering salaries are pretty much a free market, employers will pay just what they need to attract and retain the right candidates, which for an individual employer for an individual role in an individual part of the country can easily be 20-30% or more away from the median in either direction. So personally I do tend to find that, although interesting, they're often not particularly useful. The argument goes that if you're not paying enough you know it because you can't find staff, and if you're overpaying you know it because your competitors undercut you. So that it all tends to sort itself out.

In fact, back in the days when I used to recruit I remember having furious arguments with HR, who loved living by salary surveys, where I would point out that we needed to pay what we needed to pay to find the right staff (because of where we were based we had a very small pool to choose from), and if that meant we had to pay a "graduate" salary to a non-graduate then tough!

It's very interesting to compare the situation in the UK, where individual salaries are pretty much secret, with, say, Scandinavia where they tend to be open and published. I honestly wouldn't like to say which works better, I suspect the Scandinavian system is fairer overall but perhaps doesn't allow so much for individual situations. Sorry, that's a bit off topic...   

Not trying to say I disagree that a salary survey should be run; rather, I'm trying to flush out what makes a good and useful salary survey by thinking about what the end benefits would actually be and to whom?

I will say my personal view is that to be really useful to either job seekers or employers it has to be very granular for role, industry and location in the country, unfortunately to the point where it can be quite hard to get significant data and to make it readable. And also, and this is where the IET (and IEE before it) always struggles, it needs to cover engineering staff both inside and outside the Institutes. Most engineers are not members of a PEI, those that are tend to work in very specific industry sectors which can have quite different salary structures (not necessarily higher or lower, just different) to those with few PEI members. And it's hugely important to recognise both.

But very interesting suggestion, look forward to seeing where this goes! 


Andy Millar CEng CMgr IET Mentor / IET PRA uk.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

Re: Is it time for the IET to conduct a new Salary Survey - for the benefit of all UK and Ireland Members and Employers?

Posted by Malcolm Davies on Aug 4, 2019 1:29 am

 Thanks for your response Andy. I have a range of views and drivers for promoting this idea. Historically, I found it very useful from 1976 to 1998 to be able to use the very detailed and comprehensive IEE annual salary survey to see how I was doing relative to my peers. Being in one of the most popular areas of work, Telecommunications Systems R&D in a private industry, I was able to find where my salary sat in relation to those working in my field, in the same age group, responsibility level, geographical area, class of membership etc and gauge whether I was above or below the lower quartile and eventually developing my position through promotion and negotiation beginning to approach the median salary for my group. I was also able to use the IEE data to support my negotiation of salary when moving from one employer in the private sector in R&D to another field, namely a Senior Management Operational role in London, also in the private sector and then again when I moved into the Public Sector with OFTEL for a few years as a Senior Technical Specialist. I found the address given by the IET Vice President, Dr Peter Bonfield at the University of Hertford to be very inspiring - his work and achievements as a Consultant and Programme Manager/Director and his track record in the building industry and on various prestigious Govt. Enquiries and Initiatives has been is very impressive. His invitation to all those present to suggest where he might place his energies and areas of concentration when he takes up the role of IET President in October 2019, was very inspiring and several excellent ideas were floated during the extensive Q & A session after his address on 3rd July. It was suggested that all classes of membership should be embraced and encouraged in recognition of the significant contribution that each makes to the profession and it was agreed that action could be taken by the IET to banish the still prevalent impression amongst the general public, journalists and politicians, that Professional Engineers are generally poorly paid. Specifically, the average salaries published in the CBS Butler Engineering Salary Survey 2019 in The Engineer Magazine do nothing to dispel this myth as the data from the 1568 respondents was spread so thinly that no differentiation between Chartered, Incorporated or Technician Classes of Membership could be made with only 7 data points per cell and only 3 responsibility levels identified for each average salary headline figure. The Engineering Council published useful salary data in 2007, 2010 and 2013 but to date do not appear to have repeated the exercise. other than the publication of some partial information in 2016/17/18 about Registered Chartered Engineers being typically £6000 per annum better off than those who were not Registered. I certainly remember paying my £22 per annum to be registered with the CEI/Engineering Council throughout my career. It was also stated in the Q&A session with Dr Peter Bonfield - that we collectively need to do even more to go into schools to encourage youngsters to see that Professional Engineering is a worthwhile and rewarding career choice.

Re: Is it time for the IET to conduct a new Salary Survey - for the benefit of all UK and Ireland Members and Employers?

Posted by Andy Millar on Aug 4, 2019 5:34 pm


Yes that all makes very good sense. The schools side is interesting, the point I always make in schools these days is that engineers' salaries are very similar to any other profession: accountants, doctors, legal professionals, teachers. (There was a very nice survey that showed this recently in one of the major newspapers, but of course I can't find it now I'm looking for it!). I do also put it into perspective by being open about the fact that all professions, including engineering, cover a huge range of salaries.

When I get the inevitable 15 year old boy (always a boy interestingly, and always 15-16) who tries to show off by saying "yeah. but it's not like you can become a multi-millionaire" i point out Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and also my previous boss (and superb engineering role model) who had an underground helipad built to keep his personal helicopter in.  

That said, personally I do tend to treat it as a side issue of the main topic that engineering can be fascinating and rewarding career that can give you the opportunity to work in genuinely innovative and creative teams in areas that interest you. And just throw in, almost as an "obviously..." statement, the parity with other professions. Whether that's actually the best way to approach it or not I don't know - I suppose it's just how I've always approached my own career.

Regarding a good salary survey helping engineers judge where they are, I agree provided that - to echo your point - the level of detail is good enough. Back when I used to run a team I would, of course, regularly have one or two engineers who would come to me and say "why aren't I being paid more?" So we'd have a chat and I'd explain what they needed to do to be paid more - which was usually to take on more responsibility. Often I find salary surveys don't get that across very well - that it's not expert knowledge that commands high salaries, it's (very simplistically) willingness to accept broad responsibility. (Rightly or wrongly.) So what would be really good (sort of thinking aloud here, or at least thinking as I type!) is a salary survey that explains WHY some roles have higher salaries than others. That could really help people decide what they want to do.

Which in a lot of cases the decision is: would you rather have a high salary, or have a quiet life? 🙂

So here's a thought following on from your thought - as well as (i.e. interlinked to) a salary survey, how about a role survey? Something that helps engineers at all stages in their careers who are thinking "I feel like I need a change, starting from here where could I go?" This might be to, as you suggest, find new routes to a higher salary, but also sometimes an individual might be happy to have LESS salary, but a chance to move out of London, or to spend less time in airports and hotels, or less time in the freezing rain on site at 3am, or to spend more time with the family, or to do something more technically interesting etc etc And just occasionally even come across a role which pays more but is lower stress! 



Andy Millar CEng CMgr IET Mentor / IET PRA uk.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

Re: Is it time for the IET to conduct a new Salary Survey - for the benefit of all UK and Ireland Members and Employers?

Posted by Alasdair Anderson on Aug 5, 2019 9:43 am

Andy Millar:
it's not expert knowledge that commands high salaries, it's ... willingness to accept broad responsibility. 

Well said, Andy. This is something that has always bugged me about the claim that if you become CEng you will command a higher salary. I tend to feel it is the other way round - those who have accepted the greater/broader responsibility (and therefore are on higher salaries) are the ones who are successful in their applications for CEng.
I would disagree slightly regarding the granularity needed. The regional variations can be somewhat compensated for by looking at the salaries as a ratio of the average salary for the region, which while not a perfect answer will at least give an indication of where the salary sits.
Your examples of role models made me think a bit - I agree with the names you suggested and there are others could be added (James Dyson and perhaps Elon Musk) but what made me stop and think is that if you look at the world's richest people and think about their professions, once you have eliminated pop stars, actors and sportsmen (and of course inherited wealth) the most common profession seems to be engineering. I certainly can't think of any accountants, doctors, lawyers or teachers on the list.

Re: Is it time for the IET to conduct a new Salary Survey - for the benefit of all UK and Ireland Members and Employers?

Posted by Roy Bowdler on Aug 5, 2019 11:01 am

The salary scales of many public sector employees are published.  If we wish to use Engineering Council’s three “types” of registration, then it would be possible to compare the criteria published on the IET website for different categories of registration with Armed Forces salary scales.  Outside MOD and its sphere of influence, registered Technicians and Incorporated Engineers are thinly spread and effectively extinct in many sectors.  As Andy pointed out it is also the case that most Engineers operating a broadly graduate level and beyond are non-registrants. Furthermore, nearly half of those that are Chartered are over 60 and the average age of a new registrant is nearly 40.  There is a younger cohort coming on stream from late 20s in those sectors where graduate recruitment (e.g. MEng) is prevalent with CEng as the target.  This would include a significant number of “blue-chip” employers, who are themselves well-aware of the market in some cases worldwide and prepared to pay a premium for exceptional talent. 

Two further factors that are likely to distort any survey, is the tendency for many who trained as engineers or technicians to move into different roles. Two examples that immediately spring to mind “bagged” CEng early and became a Barrister and Chief Executive respectively.  Many former apprentices also move into senior leadership roles or become self-employed SME owners, but tend not to seek registration, because of its academic bias. There are still a few who retain a non-CEng registration also for largely sentimental reasons, but are “in the closet”.

I’m not against the idea in principle of the IET conducted any survey including salaries, if it has clarity of purpose and benefit. That would include focussing on some sub-set of Chartered Engineer salaries if that were useful. However, I am somewhat sceptical of surveys which merely set out to make a “political” point and unsurprisingly find data to support it.  I’m more enthusiastic about research that questions existing assumptions or helps to drive higher performance and productivity.  So for example the IET skills survey highlighted problems around the useful productivity of graduate engineers, for which our policies, prioritising theory over practice are partly culpable.  If we consider only rewards influenced by the market, accepting that all markets are imperfect to some extent, an employer needs to gain some return on investment from each employee. The fact that many self-employed Plumbers, Electricians and others with in-demand skills earn more than typical Chartered Engineers is the market in action , even if it annoys those who see the IET as a form of Chartered Engineer’s Trades Union or at least “lobby group”.

I would certainly be supportive of any initiative that set out to increase the productive contribution of engineers and technicians, which will ultimately enhance their earnings. That includes academic excellence where that is a relevant factor. If professional bodies could control the supply of engineers, then they could make the market instead of employers, but UK governments have never bought into that proposition. What we currently have is the CEng kicks the IEng, who kicks the Eng Tech, who kicks the unregistered skilled person, who kicks the “handyperson”.  However if the “handyperson” is honest and ethical and knows his place (like Ronnie Corbett in the famous sketch) he might be very productive and earn an honest living.   

Returning to the Public Sector where salaries are published anyway, or not for profit enterprises, salaries are determined somewhat differently and influenced by other factors. So some mechanism like “Job Evaluation” may be used.  I was involved in that many years ago in a fully unionised environment where “differentials” and progression  through pay scales were high priority for the representatives of skilled workers (including Chartered Engineers). Factors in job evaluation might include “thinking challenge”, “specialist training required”, “responsibility” etc.  I would happily debate this if anyone wants to.

PS Good luck to Peter Bonfield , unfortunately I couldn’t make the event despite living locally (very locally to BRE).                  


Re: Is it time for the IET to conduct a new Salary Survey - for the benefit of all UK and Ireland Members and Employers?

Posted by Alasdair Anderson on Aug 5, 2019 2:15 pm

Roy Bowdler:
If professional bodies could control the supply of engineers, then they could make the market instead of employers,

I am going to have to disagree with you here, Roy. The market is generally driven by those who have the money, in this case the employers, and it generally comes down to supply and demand. The only way that professional bodies could control the supply of engineers is by somehow creating a shortage, which would not be good for either the employers or the professional bodies.
However I have to say that your post is, as usual, thought provoking and worth reading even if I disagree with one or two points.

Re: Is it time for the IET to conduct a new Salary Survey - for the benefit of all UK and Ireland Members and Employers?

Posted by Malcolm Davies on Aug 5, 2019 7:37 pm

Thanks Andy for your excellent ideas regarding role surveys and addressing/explaining the relationships between breadth of skills, responsibility level, vs depth of specialism/scarcity of expertise and the corresponding relationhship to salary that can be negotiated or commanded. Also, I whole heartedly support your comment about encouraging the Engineer to consider moving away from that highly paid (potentially), high pressure job in London to a less stressful but maybe more fulfilling role outside the professional, 'performance related pay rat race' and/or not spending most of your weekends/spare time travelling to and from foreign climes and only having about one day e.g mid-day Saturday to mid-day Sunday relaxing at home with the family, or just as bad spending several weeks/months 'away from home' and living on 'weight enhancing' hotel food whilst effectivley 'living out of a suitcase' with only close work colleagues as social companions. Let us hope that we can see these life stlye choices being taught to our younsters in school-  since we see so many who are overly concerned with such things as personal appearance, material wealth, relentless 'networking' via social media and so called smart phone apps etc. It would be so refreshing to see a movement back to what might be called the 'make do and mend for now' culture that has served the 'post war baby boomers generation' so well and that makes us individually so endlessly popular and 'in demand' to 'fix things' amongst our friends and familiies. For goodness sake - we do not need a samrt phone APP to tell us how to change a light bulb, check the health of a car battery, or determine whether a fuse has blown and if so why. ...! !
Still 'Living in hope' - with the wonderful gift of having 2 very bright Grandsons aged 6 and 9 (going on 9 and 12!) both competing as siblings but also showing great potential and promise for the future as demonstrated by their rapidly growing STEM skills, both constantly questioning 'why' and posessing a marvellous sense of nonesense and seeking out the fun and purpose in everything they do !! ..:-) (-:



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